Colonel flies to top despite unfamiliar role

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Eric Schloeffel
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
A Moody Airman recently received an Air Force-level award for his success operating in a position which is normally outside the realm of his career field.

Lt. Col. Greg Laffitte, 479th Operations Support Squadron operations officer, was recognized as the Field Grade Aerospace Physiologist of the Year, an award that serves as a testament to his abilities to excel and adjust to his new role.

"Aerospace physiologist officers aren't assigned to be flying squadron operation officers," said the Tallahassee, Fla., native. "Typically this job is reserved for pilots, but I wanted to tear down some barriers."

The duties of a typical aerospace physiologist entails teaching pilots and aircrew the affects flying thousands of feet above the surface has on the human body. This includes oversight of the hypobaric chamber, a device used for simulating the affects of high altitude.

Colonel Laffitte's current position as operations officer still includes the elements of the physiologist career field, but also branches to the oversight of airspace, life support, flight simulators and many other 479th Flying Training Group support functions.

"I selected Colonel Laffitte to be my operations officer because he's a proven leader with a tangible record of career-long success," said Lt. Col. Vincent Alcazar, 479th OSS commander. "He took time to add value to his role in the Air Force by aggressively seeking to understand operational (components) outside of his career field. Colonel
Laffitte understands leaders accomplish things through the power of personality - not via entitlement."

Despite flying in unchartered territory, Colonel Laffitte earned recognition through accomplishments such as helping his squadron complete 716 hypobaric chamber exposures without any evolved gas disorders (a common condition associated with pressure change) - an Air Education and Training Command best.

Colonel Laffitte also helped lead the airsick management program, an Air Force benchmark that helps students overcome challenges on their road to becoming pilots.
"When student pilots have airsickness problems, in order for them to continue through their training, they must get over it," said Colonel Laffitte. "Our program helped 17 pilots overcome these problems so they could receive their wings."

But while the recognition he received is considered an individual award, Colonel Laffitte believes his success relies heavily on teamwork.

"I was surprised to have won the award, but I'm smart enough to know I didn't get here by myself," said Colonel Laffitte. "When my Airmen do a good job it makes the boss look good; they are probably more deserving of this award than I am."

This selfless mentality has led to the unbridled support the colonel receives from Airmen in his squadron, said Tech. Sgt. Augustus Evans, 479th OSS.

"Colonel Laffitte is a hands-on type of leader, and he has an incredible wealth of knowledge about his job and mission," said Sergeant Evans. "He's an overall great person and leader who is in-tune to the needs of his Airmen. He has always been there to listen and take care of us."

While choosing to broaden career horizons can often lead to challenges, Colonel Laffitte's willingness to take the path not previously traveled should be an example to all, said Colonel Alcazar.

"Colonel Laffitte unquestionably deserves this award and recognition," he said. "If the Air Force is smart, future award recipients will be cut from the same cloth as him - people who confidently execute their daily duties, aren't afraid of failure and are willing to put themselves in unfamiliar terrain to seize challenges and grow."